Translating your online course is easier than ever with the new WPML integration.

Shortly after I graduated high school, I had an opportunity to go live with a family in Germany for a year. I had never learned a foreign language before, and was excited for the opportunity, so when I arrived I was surprised and not a little disappointed to find that most of the people I spoke with already new English, because they’d spent years learning it in school. When I asked why, one of them explained that “English is the language of the Internet,”

Counting both native speakers and those who have chosen to study it as a second (or third, or fourth) language, English is the most spoken language on the planet, with about 1.5 billion English learners.

Many people see this as an excuse to offer courses only in English. If it’s the language everyone wants to learn, why bother translating? However, this assumption can set you back and prevent you from reaching more learners with the best learning experience you can offer. Here are four reasons why translating your course is worth the effort.

1. You gain access to a wider audience.

Just because a lot of people are learning English doesn’t mean everyone is—or that those who are learning have attained the proficiency to take your course. While English is a popular language in many countries, others, for their own cultural or historical reasons, focus on other languages, such as French or Arabic or a native language in their home country.

Another thing: I’m writing this post in English, so most of this is coming from the assumption that our readers want to translate their English-language course into another language. But we also have readers from other countries, whose first language is Spanish, or Hindi, or Korean. For them, translating a course into English means they can reach each other through their shared language.

2. You provide a better learning experience to non-native speakers.

Just because your learners can speak English doesn’t mean they want to learn that way. As we touched on earlier, even those who are learning English may not have the proficiency to follow along with your course. And even if their English is good, it may place an extra burden on their learning experience.

Many STEM courses get around this difficulty because their courses are focused on numerical equations, or because they have created a global standard for naming things like animals or diseases.

But what if you’re trying to teach a course on business management, and your learners have to keep stopping to look jargon terms for economics? They might get through it, but it’s unlikely they would do as well as if it were in their native language.

More importantly, what if you’re trying to create a training course for employees stationed in another part of the world? They may speak English, but they will be working with customers who don’t. If all of their training is based on English-language responses or western cultural norms, they may not gain any benefits from taking your course.

3. You support minority languages.

This reason doesn’t apply to every course translation, but where it does apply it can be very important. Many languages are losing native speakers as children grow up without learning it from their parents. In some places, this is just a case of the language being neglected, but in others it’s the result of one language being favored over another.

Some places have tried to reverse the trend by teaching a local language in school, by using bilingual signs, or by having official government documents in multiple languages. For instance, Welsh has made a comeback in Wales education programs that focus on the Welsh language.

4. You establish yourself as a global player.

Finally, if you want to position yourself as a global leader in your area of expertise, offering multilingual courses is your only option. Even if you aren’t multilingual, working with qualified translators and bringing on team members with multilingual backgrounds can help you achieve recognition for your work beyond the circle of people who speak your language.

A few considerations before you make the leap.

Translating your course is a great idea, but there are still several factors you need to take into account before you move ahead.

  • Do you understand the language yourself, or will you need to work with a translator? Google Translate can help for short sentences is non-critical situations, but it can’t translate your course for you.
  • Can you offer support to learners in the translated language? Do you have a plan for helping students who contact you in the target language but who don’t speak your own?
  • Are there resources available in the target language? If you share resources in your original course, do you have similar resources to share in the target language?
  • Does your course have a place in that market? Is there something about your course that would make it hard to sell in your target market? Do you rely on resources that are unavailable, or are you teaching something for which there is no interest?
  • What technical or cultural differences should you be aware of? Will your learners have reliable access to the Internet? Will that access support video streaming? Are there social, cultural, political, or religious concerns you should account for?

These aren’t reasons not to translate; they’re considerations to make sure you do it right.

LearnDash now integrates with WPML for faster, easier translations.

So: you’re sold on the idea of translating your course; you’ve done your homework to be sure translation is the right move; you’ve found a translator to help you out, and you’re ready to move forward. The only question that remains is: How do course translations work with LearnDash?

This used to be a more technical process that many users struggled with. Fortunately, we’ve recently achieved full integration with WPML, making it easier to translate your courses. For the specifics, we have our documentation pages updated with instructions, and you can reference WPML’s documentation as well.

Translating your course will win good favor from your new audience.

Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

No matter what language your original course is in, if you’re trying to reach a new audience, offering it in their language will win them mover more than if you only offer it in your own. Good will doesn’t always translate into smart business, but in this case, it almost certainly does.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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